How Do I Stop Coughing at Night?

What Is Cough?

A cough is the body’s way to help clear the airways of irritants and to prevent infection. Cough is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

What Are Symptoms of Cough?

A cough may be accompanied by other cold symptoms, including:

What Causes Cough?

Causes of cough include:

How Is Cough Diagnosed?

Cough is diagnosed with a history and physical exam. Tests used to help diagnose the cause of the cough may include: 

What Is the Treatment for Cough?

Treatment of cough depends on the cause and whether the cough is acute or chronic. 

Treatment for cough may include: 

If the cough is not serious, home remedies may help relieve symptoms, such as:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Gargling with warm saltwater 
  • Cough lozenges (lozenges are not recommended for young children; they can be a choking hazard)  
  • Don’t smoke
  • Avoiding allergens such as pollen, dust, animals, or mold 
  • Avoiding inhaled irritants such as smoke, dust, and other pollutants
  • For GERD: Avoiding foods that increase reflux, avoiding meals before lying down, elevating the head while sleeping

If a cough is keeping you up at night, try:

  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines before bed, such as cough suppressants to reduce the urge to cough or expectorants which help loosen congestion 
  • Having what you need at the bedside: cough medicine, lozenges, a glass of water, or anything else that helps
  • Using a mentholated vapor rub to help open airways
  • Drinking tea with honey (avoid caffeinated tea)
  • Using extra pillows or raise the head of the bed 6 to 8 inches using blocks of wood or rubber under 2 legs of the bed or a foam wedge under the mattress (especially helpful for people who have cough due to GERD)
  • Washing bedding at least once/week in hot water to keep dust mites in check if cough is due to allergies
  • Inhaling steam in a shower before bed or use a humidifier (caution: steam can worsen cough in people who have asthma)
  • Using a humidifier (caution: if cough is due to allergies to dust mites or mold, too much moisture can make it worse)
  • Don’t smoke

How Do You Prevent Cough?

To prevent cough:

  • Don't smoke
  • Manage chronic conditions that may cause cough such as asthma, postnasal drip, or GERD 
  • Avoid people who are sick with the cold, flu, COVID, bronchitis, or pneumonia
  • Get the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine
  • Eat fruit